The Rapha Explore pullover is too good for gravel riders: it uses Polartec’s PowerGrid waffle fleece so works best at the slower speeds of mtb

Product Overview

Overall rating:

Score 9

Rapha Explore Zip Neck Pullover


  • Warm and cosy for winter riding. It's also effective at keeping out water and wind thanks to the chest panel. The overall heat management is excellent, it's stretchy and lightweight and not overly bulky


  • It's pretty expensive for a jumper. And it can get a bit too hot just on the back when you're really working hard


I’ve been testing winter jerseys for two decades, and the Rapha Explore Zip Neck Pullover is the best I’ve tried


Price as reviewed:


The Rapha Explore Zip Neck Pullover is part of the brand’s bikepacking range, so this zip neck top isn’t strictly in the MTB line-up. Just don’t tell anyone you’re wearing a gravel top, because it looks the part for MTB and is versatile enough to offer the fit and heat management mountain bikers need. That makes it one of the best mountain bike jerseys we’ve tested for cold weather.

Rapha Pullover Need to know

  • Gravel riding jersey (shh, don’t tell anyone) that’s actually great for mountain bike use on or off the bike
  • Uses Polartec’s PowerGrid fabric to insulate, and raise the garment off your body for sweat management
  • Comes in three nuted colours, and sizes XS, S, M, L, XL, and XXL

The Pullover uses a mid-weight, waffle-backed, fleecy knit fabric. That means it has a raised texture on the internal face that lofts it off your skin to improve wicking and heat management. Warm and cosy, the Pullover is advertised as a mid-layer, but I had great success when using it as an outer layer, even on sub-10-degree days.

The Powergrid pattern lofts the whole thing away from your body, meaning you can dry out more quickly when sweaty

Using Polartec’s PowerGrid fleece, this zip neck top is insulating and wind resistant, with an extra windblocking and water-resistant front panel to keep chills off the rider moving along.

PowerGrid uses geometric internal ridges and blocks to reduce ‘touch points’ on your skin (or baselayer) to better absorb sweat vapour and transfer it out through the material. The gridded shape also creates open air channels inside that improve breathability and cooling, while still offering good insulation without the need for a thicker, bulkier fabric. 

This internally-textured fleece concept is similar to 7Mesh’s Chilco Anorak that I really rate, but with a hood and slightly thicker and more tufty interior, the Chilco is more of a dedicated outer layer than Rapha’s Pullover.

Double ended zip lets you peel down for heat management, or zip up from the bottom to get access to an internal pocket

The Pullover is reasonably tight-fitting, but with 16% spandex in the fabric there’s good stretch and freedom of movement and the protective rip-stop fabric chest panel (that extends to just below the rib cage) doesn’t impact on mobility. The arms are close fitting, long enough for full coverage while stretched out cycling and have thumb loops at the cuff to prevent them riding up. As a mountain biker wearing gloves, I didn’t use these loops though.

There are six size and three different colour options, and two zips – one to open the neck for extra ventilation and one to close an internal chest pocket that can stash smaller bits. Like all of the brand’s kit, this top comes with Rapha’s crash guarantee where you can send an item back to be repaired for free, which is a big deal and brilliant for longevity and sustainability.

The Rapha Pullover is advertised as a mid-layer, but it works really well on cold days as a jersey

Rapha Explore Zip Neck Pullover performance

The Explore Pullover has quickly become a bit of a favourite. It’s really warm, to the extent it’s deceptively so for the thickness, with a big part of this due to the gridded fleece’s insulating properties and also how windproof the material is. Even on really cold mornings, there’s minimal chill or cold air penetrating the fabric, so it can handle sub ten-degree days with just a baselayer T-shirt underneath.

The flip side bonus to the wind resistance is that the gridded material also feels airy against skin and moves body heat and sweat away really effectively, so it rarely gets overly stuffy, clammy or saturated inside. The insulation is so good that inside the back of the jersey can occasionally get a bit too hot and clammy on the longest climbs, but to counter this, the fabric is also really quick-drying if you do get sweaty.

Neck cosy

Rapha’s fit is pretty tight on the arms, but with good stretch in the material, there’s no sense of restriction and the slightly dropped tail doesn’t let a draft up and onto the small of your back, even leant right forward pedalling. 

The long neck zip doesn’t open as low down as it looks, because the lower part of the zip opens upwards to access a nylon-lined front pocket on the breast bone. I’d prefer the top zip to open all the way down to dump more heat on extended climbs, but it’s not really an issue and didn’t stop me being a big fan of Rapha’s Explore top as a totally sorted example of a waffle-pattern fleecy riding jersey. 

Rapha’s dinky little zip pulls are arguably too small when your hands are cold and esconced in bulky gloves

Versatile, warm and quick-drying, Rapha’s Pullover is lightweight and effective, not too bulky and looks and fits great. It’s worth noting that many outdoor brands like Rab and Montane do similar Polartec PowerGrid pieces (without the cycling-specific windblock front panel) for up to £50 less cash though.


The Explore pullover is fitted (in MTB terms) without being restrictive and works great for high-intensity mountain biking. Rapha’s top insulates you from chilly winds when you're rolling downhill, and you can dump excess rider heat or sweat generated on the inside getting up climbs too. In fact, you can do both these things within close proximity of each other and stay in a good temperature zone.


Sizes:XS, S, M, L, XL, XXL
Colours:Grey, Dark Grey, Burgundy